Taos Ski Valley announced today that it has achieved a CarbonNeutral Certification from Climate Impact Partners. Taos, already the world’s first and only B Corp-certified ski resort, is now the first in the industry to achieve the certification. This milestone follows years of sustainability work and close to $100 million invested in reducing on-mountain energy use, and it puts Taos ahead of its stated 2030 timeline to have a net footprint of zero carbon emissions, otherwise known as net zero.
Taos, located in the Sangre de Cristo range of New Mexico, attained the certification through a combination of on-site emissions reductions and investment in carbon offset projects like the implementation of clean cooking stoves in Ghana and Guatemala.
The Carbon Neutrality Debate
There are some questions about the extent to which carbon offsets and independently awarded certifications like CarbonNeutral mean much in global efforts to address climate change. Auden Schendler is one of the foremost experts on sustainable business. The climate activist, businessman, and current senior vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company said this CarbonNeutral Certification is something—but not everything. “The is a ‘me versus we’ question,” he said. “If you care about stabilizing the climate and protecting the outdoor economy, you work on systemic change. If you care about how you look, you [do] carbon neutral.”
Instead, Schendler suggested in a white paper to which he’s currently contributing that businesses may be better off investing their offset money in something “actually impactful,” such as “converting offices from natural gas to electric heat or switching company vehicles to electric.” He added that investing time and energy in support of passing more climate legislation is also vital to meaningful change.
“We believe that the use of a carbon offset is not the perfect solution, but to be certified carbon neutral is an outstanding first step,” said Taos Ski Valley CEO David Norden. The hope is that, moving forward, Taos will be incentivized to reduce more emissions on-site to minimize the cost of and need for offsetting. “The ultimate goal is zero emissions,” said Norden.
How Taos Achieved an Industry First
Becoming CarbonNeutral is a process. Taos is already on 100 percent daytime solar and hopes to expand the use of renewables across the resort. In alignment with its new certification, Taos is purchasing 10 electric snowmobiles and will also debut the first electric snowcat in North America this winter. The company also created a new role devoted to overseeing net-zero efforts and monitoring progress toward emissions reductions.
“Carbon neutrality allows us to understand what our footprint is, which most organizations don’t actually know,” said Norden. This transparency is key to reducing future emissions and minimizing reliance on offsets to achieve carbon neutrality.
Despite these critiques, Taos is still leading the charge on carbon reduction in the ski industry, and other ski resorts and businesses are taking notice. B Lab—the nonprofit that provides the esteemed B Corp certification to businesses that meet high standards of social and environmental responsibility—convened its annual summit in Taos prior to the pandemic, to show sustainability leaders that the resort reflects B Corp values. More recently, entities such as the Forest Service, Nature Conservancy, and other ski resorts have reached out to Taos to learn more about how it centers its business model around environmental and social responsibility.
“We are a learning organization, and if we continue to do the work we believe that people will continue to take note and ideally do their part in their region to care for the planet and to care for the people on the planet,” said Norden. “We’re building a story that more people are gravitating towards.”
Taos Ski Valley’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility is also affecting how individuals engage with the resort. Following the announcement of its B Corp certification in 2017, Taos sold more lift tickets than after any other marketing campaign the company has run. Today, Taos continues to see high numbers of visitors and has a robust recruitment pipeline as people seek out Taos’s commitment to sustainability.
“We’re finding, with our guests and our staff, people want to be engaged in business and activities that align with their values,” said Norden. “Doing everything we can to be innovative on social and environmental responsibility is working for us.”
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